by Lauren Rae, TRYM Fitness CPT
A tightened and toned midsection is sought after by most come swimsuit season! Do you know what muscles make up your core and more importantly, what they’re responsible for? So much more than the visual “6 Pack,” the abdominal muscles are located between the ribs and pelvis on the front of the body. In combination with your pelvic floor and deep lower back muscles, this powerhouse makes up what is commonly known as your core.
These muscles work together to support the trunk (lower body) and allow movement while holding all of your organs intact through applied abdominal pressure. Additionally, your core muscles attach to your upper body, creating a solid foundation for all activity. Without regular stretching and exercises to create a strong core, strains and hernias can occur.
The 5 main muscles used to complete these exercises:
The deepest muscle layer that stabilizes the trunk and maintains internal abdominal pressure to protect internal organs.
Located between the ribs and the pubic bone on the front body, this muscle is separated into sections and when contracted creates the “the six pack.”
External oblique muscles
The external oblique muscles are on either side of the rectus abdominus and allow the trunk to twist to the opposite side of whichever oblique is contracting.
The internal obliques operate opposite the external oblique muscles.
The multifidus is a deep back muscle that runs along the spine. It works in combination with the transversus abdominus to increase spine stability and protect against injury.
5 of the Best Ab Exercises for 2014:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms by your side, palms up with a neutral spine. Extend your legs to a 45 degree angle while you bring your arms overhead. Inhale and contract your abs to sit up on your tailbone, reaching arms towards your toes. Tuck the tailbone and roll back down on to the mat with an exhale.
2. Plank with a twist
Begin in a classical plank position with shoulders over the elbows and forearms down on the mat. Legs are extended back and heels reach back while balancing on your toes. To complete the plank twist, engage your abdominal muscles and release your left hip bone towards the mat near the midline of your body. Contract to come up to neutral and complete on the right side. Continue this alternating twist for 60 seconds.
3. Lace grab with a hold
Lying down on your mat, extend your legs to the ceiling. Arms reach out of your shoulders towards the sky. Crunch up head, neck, and shoulders while slightly lifting your tailbone off of the mat and reach towards your shoelaces (taking concern for the back of the neck with a tucked chin). Pull abdominal muscles into the belly and hold at the top for 25 seconds. Repeat!
4. Stability ball oblique twist
Begin by lying on a stability ball, placing the ball towards the top of your back and shoulders. Plant your feet hip width apart on the ground and extend your arms overhead palms pressed together. Keeping your hips stable, twist to the left and bring your gaze and arms down until they are parallel with the ground and engage your left oblique. Alternate between left and right for a total of 15 twists on each side.
5. Stability ball kneeling curl
With the stability ball behind you and your body face down, place your hands on the ground and walk your toes (advanced) or knees (beginner) onto the ball. Keep your head in line with your spine and engage your core to promote balance. Exhale as you draw your knees into your chest without altering the position of your upper body. Inhale and return the ball to the starting position with legs fully extended behind you. Repeat 15 times.